Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bonham on the ballot - again!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.  One reason for that is that I've been in Sydney where I've actually been a candidate in a contested election (as well as being "on holidays", which is defined as getting away from Hobart's hottest ever day to go to somewhere 0.5 degrees hotter.)  The site bio here discussed the most interesting of my three previous contested elections as a candidate (also the only one I didn't win).

The election in question was a three-way race for two positions as Vice-President of the Australian Chess Federation.  Normally ACF elections are all uncontested but this year both President and Vice-President were contested while other officebearer positions were unopposed.

Chess politics is a rather curious branch of politics in general, because chessplayers tend to be quite good at strategic thinking, while also being prone to interpret the actions of other players suspiciously (What's he/she up to?  Is this a sneaky trap? etc).  Probably in 2014 I will post some stuff here about the elections for President of the world chess federation, FIDE.

The two Vice-President positions (confusingly, there is also a Deputy President) were added to the ACF executive several years ago as a compromise solution after a radical proposal to create an AFL-style Commission obtained majority support, but not a big enough majority to be enacted.  However, when the two positions were created, the question of exactly how to elect the positions when they were contested wasn't resolved.  The Constitution specified only "preferential voting".

After some discussion it was decided proportionality wasn't a big deal for a national body electing an executive and as a result the election consisted of a ballot for one vice-presidential position, followed by a ballot between the unsuccessful candidates for the first position (and anyone else who felt inclined to run) for the second.  Thus in theory a ticket of two candidates supported by just over half the meeting would both be elected.

Voting was conducted by a secret ballot of state delegates allocated on a basis of 1 delegate per state per million people living in that state, rounded up.  Thus Tasmania and the ACT each have 1 delegate, SA has two, up to 8 for NSW.  I've often observed secret ballots of this sort (eg some student political positions had them) and I find that it's best not to get too attached to counting numbers of those who say they will vote for you.  Indeed I didn't even "do the numbers" by asking anyone to tell me how they were voting.  I well recall one candidate for a student position being convinced the majority of people entitled to vote had told him they would vote in his favour; in the end nobody did!

My re-election campaign, such as it was, was run on a 5-point platform.  Three of the points represented essentially running on my record (including vigilance on conflict of interest issues) and committing to more of the same while two would be regarded as seeking a mandate for improvements to communications and contingency planning.  I sent a two-page campaign document to those states I thought might support me on the first ballot and strongly stressed that I wished to not only be elected but elected convincingly so that I would have a clear mandate to push on with my proposals.

In the end I was elected on the first ballot with an absolute majority of 15 primary votes out of 26 (58%) and then via the second ballot was able to see my "preferences" distributed in a sense (they apparently went 8-7 to the other incumbent, but this was not enough to re-elect him.)

The Presidential election was also interesting - as a scrutineer for the incumbent I noticed that the main challenger was at one point leading 11-4, but because of the way voters were distributed around the room with delegates from the same state typically sitting together, I knew that that was not a reliable indication.  And so it proved with the election finishing in a 13-13 tie between two candidates with no votes for the third, at which point the main challenger withdrew, averting a random draw for the position between the main challenger and the incumbent.

I cannot resist mentioning that following his victory, candidate Bonham was driven away from the scene of his triumph in a luxury Jaguar.  (Truly!) Normal service from this site, whatever that is, will resume next week.

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